From Great American Success Stories - 1977

Anna Marie Pallachi – Roller Derby Queen


Sophia Pallachi had just started in on a

plate of lasagna when the pains began

coming regularly.  An ambulance was called

and Sophia was rushed to St. John’s Hospital

in Brooklyn where she was delivered of a

healthy six pound baby girl.


The child, Anna Marie, struggled through

childhood as one of eight Pallachi offspring.

Home was a crowded apartment on the top

floor of a five story walk-up in Little Italy.

Silence was in short supply.  The air was

habitually filled with the sounds of crying

babies, fighting parents, snoring grandmas

and the Great Caruso.


Anna Marie was taught how to make pasta,

knit shawls and take care of babies, but

none of these things held much interest

for her.  One Christmas, however, Anna

Marie received roller skates from her

father, Vittorio the butcher, which solved

the interest problem forthwith.


Whenever she had a free moment, Anna Marie

spent it on her skates.  Careening down

neighborhood sidewalks, her ribbonedpigtails

streaming behind, Anna Marie terrorized young

and old alike.  Over the years she plowed

into ice cream carts, garbage cans and cops

on the beat, but nothing could deter her from

skating at every opportunity.  She was the

best in Little Italy, maybe in all of Brooklyn.


When Anna Marie was seventeen it was arranged

that she would marry Joe Lola, an up and coming

soldier in the Brotherhood.  In case of trouble

Vittorio wanted some instant protection in

the family.  The skates were reluctantly put

in a trunk to be replaced by cooking, sewing

and babies.


Anna Marie tried to love Joe, but it was

hard, especially when your husband can

never talk about his day at the office.

After six years of marriage and two children,

the roof fell in when Joe was wasted in a

gang war with the Spitale brothers.


After the funeral while sitting at home and

wondering what to do with her life, Anna Marie

absent mindedly turned on the TV.  A roller

derby game was on.  It was a sign.  Leaving the

kids with Grandma, Anna Marie set out to become

a roller derby queen.


Though only 5’3” and 100 pounds, Anna Marie

was soon tearing them up on the banked track

of the roller derby circuit.  In public she

was known as “Little Italy.”  In private she

was lovingly referred to as “Wonder Wop.”


Little Italy could block and jam better than

almost anyone, but her real fame came as a

result of the spectacular fights she staged

with other skaters.  Crowds went berserk as

she pummeled Big Martha into wining submission

or knocked a skater over the rail and into

the fourth row seats.


In just a couple of seasons, Anna Marie

landed an exclusive contract to play for the

Bay City Bombers and was featured in Sports

Illustrated and Ladies Home Journal.  At

the peak of her popularity, and made fabulously

wealthy through lucrative endorsements, Anna

Marie undertakes a goodwill world tour on

roller skates.


Well received in Africa, Asia and Europe (She

is given the key to the city in Rome), Anna

Marie is on the last leg as she skates through

South America.  Then disaster strikes as Anna

Marie disappears from a jungle trail deep in

the Amazon.  The search goes on for months to

no avail.  She is lost.


Her jersey is enshrined at the Roller Derby

Hall of Fame in Port Arthur, Texas.  Flags fly

at half-mast in towns which get the games on

TV.  A school in her old neighborhood is

renamed Anna Marie Junior High.  She is sorely



Every couple of years some expedition reports

having sighted a petite figure on roller skates

barreling down a trail in the Amazon River basin,

but the sightings are never substantiated.

Though her fate remains a mystery, Anna Marie

lives forever in the memories of true sports